Notes: I am a horrible person. I am sorry. But the changes have been made and I really hope it improves the story. My main goal was to have everything make a little bit more sense, construction- and content-wise, so hopefully I've achieved that... i.e., if there are problems/concerns/anything, please drop a line and I will happily take a look at whatever it is and see what can be done.
Basically: everything's been replaced on here. Some new stuff's been added, some old stuff's been shuffled around, all with good intentions.
PS I love you.
Also, check out http : / / fav [DOT] me / d4lpqvr for a pretty wicked drawing of a scene from Precedent. (Don't forget to browse the gallery too!)
He would win, he knew, but he couldn't give his enemies his undivided attention. Something nagged against his awareness, even as he spun around the room, alternating between deflecting blows with the super-reflective shield D had given him, and chasing the witches with his raised sword. He'd trapped Navi in a bottle before his foray into the Spirit Temple, and after releasing her just before meeting the witches and apologising profusely, she'd relented and once again joined his side, albeit somewhat limitedly due to her fear of his shadow; now, her high-pitched warnings kept his focus from straying too far and for that he was grateful. Judging by the witches' shock at seeing the shield in his hands, he possessed an unexpected advantage, and despite using its power as aggressively as possible, he couldn't keep himself from glancing nervously at his empty shadow and the great double doors that led into the Mirror Chamber.
D's been here before. He's talking to Nabooru just outside and he'll be in in a minute. You don't need him to fight the witches, he told himself angrily. You're the one who found the passage behind the tapestry. You're the one who made it here first. He told you to go. You've fought tougher monsters before by yourself. Why are you even worried?
The witches cackled, irresistibly drawing his attention. Link tumbled out of the way of an icy blast from Koume, flipping back onto his feet in time to deflect Kotake's fiery magic. Twice so far he'd successfully forced the sisters' magic to cross and subsequently explode on contact, wounding the casters. Twice he'd missed his chance to inflict real damage on his opponents because he'd been too slow to scramble back to his feet and pursue the fallen witches. Now, he knew he had them. Or at least, he would if he could just concentrate. But no matter what, he just couldn't get that stupid shadow out of his mind. The abandonment was still so fresh in his mind, and the thought of D disappearing again actually inspired a little jolt of cold, white fear. Link did not want his strange, shadowy friend to leave. He knew it, just as certainly as he would never admit it. And presently, with a breath of relief, he heard the doors rattle against the walls as they swung inward, and then click back into place as they shut after the new arrival. Avoiding another blast, he finally turned excitedly-
Nabooru strode down the threadbare red carpet, dragging a dark, limp form behind her. As she drew closer, he realised with sudden blank terror that it was D, pulled along by his collar, and he wasn't moving. As far as Link could tell, he wasn't breathing, either. He can't be dead. He isn't dead. But he also knew that the only way for Nabooru to be treating him so poorly right now- Farore, no. He can't be dead. Please-
"...Do you want some healing potion?"
"Hell yes," D snapped at him. And if Link didn't know better, he would've flinched backwards – the shadow looked about ready to pounce and strangle him with his bare hands. The bottom of the well had been rough on both of them, but D especially and the guilt washed over him steadily. "Why are you holding out on me?"
Mumbling to himself, Link pulled out his last bottle and shook it carefully to mix the contents, noting that its weight seemed slightly off. "Here, D." He attempted to penetrate the heavily fogged glass with the intensity of his gaze-
He hadn't so much as raised his arm to examine the bottle when his friend snatched it out of his hand and popped off the lid before Link could get a word in edgewise. He could only watch in horror as D tossed it back – and choked on something warm, fuzzy, and fluttering. Spluttering, he spat onto the grass only to come face to face with Link's fairy. He dragged a hand across his mouth in disgust, flicking his tongue to get the taste of fairy out. "Bloody hell, kid! What the-"
"I tried to warn you." Annoyance passed over his face and he scrunched up his eyes, mouth twisted to the side. He held out a palm to the shivering fairy and when she climbed aboard, cupped his fingers around her and blew gently. "That's my last bottle, so I stuffed her in there to hide her from the thing with all the hands."
D stared. "Why? She could've helped us, you twit!"
The kid shrugged. "I dunno. It seemed like a good idea at the time. I didn't want it to try and eat her too."
"Oh, so you thought I'd be more nutritious for that undead thing, is that it?"
"I'm right here, you know!" shrieked the furious fairy, but no one paid her any attention as usual. She continued to hiss obscenities from between Link's fingers, since her wings had yet to dry. It might've been funny except for that part where he'd actually missed her light. He didn't like the dark, and even with D doing his best to infuse it with a little friendliness, his irrational fear had only intensified during their final moments in the well – specifically, when the several-handed creature had suddenly grabbed D from behind after he'd knocked Link out of the way of writhing fingers. But, if that was what it took to keep the fairy safe, then it was okay. Besides, he had both of them again now, and they were safe in the Lost Woods because he'd saved Saria. They were safe, for now.
"Whatever-" Disgusted, he swallowed the rest of the potion. "Let's get out of this place. You know it gives me the creeps."
Link grinned lopsidedly, now on his feet with his hands at his hips and the ocarina clutched at his waist. "I'm the one with the magic right now, not you. I think I can do whatever I want." But he set the mouthpiece to his lips anyway, knowing that D deserved a different sanctuary after his small act of heroism in that well. Besides, his friend never failed to complain about how creepy the Sacred Forest Meadow was with its ethereal chorus of fairies that supposedly mocked him from the shadows, so using the place as anything more than a brief refuge after a desperate escape was kind of out of the question if he wanted to keep D from ranting for any length of time. "And I think I want to go to-" D laughed at him and he froze suspiciously. "What?"
"We just spent the last few days wandering around in the bottom of a well filled with zombies, and you're acting like our plans for a holiday were rained out." Link stared at him confusedly, wary. The shadow had this smile on his face that still spoke of the apparent pain he was in, but was nevertheless bright and mischievous as ever. Drawing in a deep breath full of amusement, he breathed out: "You're acting like a kid instead of a pint-sized serial-killer."
The kid snuffled at that. "Whatever," he grumbled. "Let's go."
But D snatched the hat off his head and ruffled Link's short hair. "I'm proud of you." Except, he couldn't have meant to say that, since they both froze at the words and the unspoken sentiment suddenly trapped in the air around them. D wasn't this affectionate, ever. He'd mock and tease the stuffing out of someone before telling them anything so straightforward. And it surprised them at his accidental admission, but Link knew there had to be some underlying cause for it. Regardless, it made him a little fuzzy inside. And he would've grinned irritatingly if it wouldn't have ruined the moment and made things awkward. "You know," the shadow recovered, "I'm proud of you for not actually getting me killed. You cut it a little close this time, though."
Mumbling to himself, Link shook his head and set the ocarina to his lips again, but this time it was more to hide the smile than to avoid D's ornery nature.
His voice rang deafeningly in his mind: "You know, I'm proud of you for not actually getting me killed."
She stopped just short of where Link stood rooted to the carpet, but she didn't speak; with a terribly graceful motion, she released her burden and the head and shoulders hit the floor with a dull thump and remained still. His eyes were closed, and the skin looked even paler than usual, the only colour provided by patches of shiny blisters that coincided with charred holes in his clothing. Link felt the bottom of his stomach dissolve. She had killed him. She had killed D. And goddesses, but he hurt. It wasn't until he unthinkingly turned and raised his sword in her direction, an open challenge, that he noticed her angry golden eyes were fixed on the witches hovering just before the Mirror, each grinning toothily.
"Look what the cat's dragged in-"
"You have deceived me," Nabooru cut in icily. The Gerudo stood tall, her red hair catching the light filtering in through a line of wide windows set high into the wall behind the Mirror. "You have used me. You have disgraced our people." Her gaze swung unexpectedly to meet his and he felt his mouth fall open a little, then shut decisively as he nodded back to her. "Link. I am truly sorry."
The words sent him plummeting into despair. Across the room, Koume and Kotake seemed suddenly frenzied with anger.
"So our pet's finally broken the spell, eh?" snapped Koume.
"I think it's time to put her down, Koume," retorted Kotake.
Nabooru didn't even flinch, but Link couldn't help it. A blinding white flash later, and a pile of golden ashes sparkled where the Gerudo had been moments before. The fury she'd brought into the room hadn't dissipated, however, and as he stood there staring at the remains of his friends, he could feel it flooding his veins, infecting him as if he were breathing in her spirit. Behind him, the witches bickered... until he whirled around with a floor-shaking scream that startled them out of their argument.
HIT ME, he cried in his head, or he thought he did. TRY AND HIT ME. And they tried- Together, the witches cast their spells, too surprised by his charge to think of avoiding the other's path, and a second or two after they released their incantations, the opposing magic connected and exploded in a spectacular flash.
"Link, now's your chance!" called Navi desperately from somewhere to his left.
He nodded absently, surged through the glimmering aftershock that still hung frozen in the air, and with all of his strength behind it, drove the Master Sword straight into the heart of the still-conscious sister before turning the blade and destroying the other. And then – only after watching the witches' bodies crumble into grey ash – then, did he finally feel the tears stinging the corners of his eyes and burning his throat. Slowly, Link turned to face the length of the room and the reality of death at the other end.
Of all the things in recent memory, this was by far the most nerve-wracking and potentially the most dangerous – and that was before considering the possibility of a skirmish. He'd very purposefully chosen another seedy inn in the opposite part of town, and he'd very purposefully avoided the occasional summons that reached him, allegedly from the aging barmaid herself. This time, though, there was nothing for it.
Well, he could always hope for the best.
Hope, being the key word.
…As if Telma didn't see everything that happened in her bar.
Link snorted. This was going to be interesting.
The street was quiet as they approached the bar's front, a wide brick face set with two oaken doors, one for the tavern and the other for the marginally more respectable inn. From the light spilling out of the wide windows, a writhing mass of silhouettes was cast onto the cobbles. By the way the figures moved, however, Link knew that whatever trouble was headed for the place, it was still on its way. A minor relief, in the scheme of things. Maybe if they presented a formidable enough force, the 'hit' might spare the bar… for now. If the turmoil wracking Castletown and its crumbling structure didn't abate soon, Link had more than a serious problem on his hands because he couldn't spend goddesses knew how long defending this one little shop when there was an entire city full of little shops – and houses and people. Making his presence known here, even just to diffuse a threat, would only further the game, especially if Hart himself was on his way. And that… well, that just meant they were in it for the long haul now. Maybe he always had been. With a fleeting glance at the plain wooden sign overhanging the tavern door, he pushed his way inside and into the cacophony of a busy bar, the men from Rube's following close behind him.
Just as he expected, his gaze found her at the taps, surrounded by a raucous crowd clamouring for more ale. He darted over to an empty corner table before she had a chance to look up from her work, much to his relief; keeping the peace relied on his maintaining a low profile. It'd be a chore, but he'd have to take a leaf out of Midna's book and keep to the shadows. Accordingly, he settled in, wordlessly accepting a glass of something passed to him by Rube, and watched.
The floor was alive: a stout boy threaded skilfully through the mass of customers with a tray held over his head; around the bar, Telma shouted at men to keep their grubby hands out of the way of her tankards as she flicked them along the counter; to her right and closest to the entrance was a door labelled "PRIVATE," and to her left, another door that led to the inn portion of the establishment banged open and shut every other second. And it was funny, in a way, the movement. The city and its people went on living – indefatigable. He remembered what it was like walking through the marketplace before disaster in the desert, and while it still felt a little alien to him, he saw the same basic elements, the same life coursing through the cobbled streets. A prime example of it was packed into the building now, with a handful of men at the bar that rallied behind him, and he rallied behind Zelda. Somewhat.
Now probably isn't the time to think about this though, he reminded himself forcefully, but it had little effect. Of course it had little effect. When you found yourself the unofficial leader of a revolutionary force, it was more than a little disorienting. It was a little past disorienting, particularly when you also found yourself undermining your own authority. Despite the gauntlet covering the back of his hand, he knew the mark had disappeared. Not entirely, not yet – but it was fading, and it confused him because Ganondorf had lost Power just before dying on the other end of the Master Sword. Link wanted to believe that this was a job for Zelda, that Zelda should be organising the people, that Zelda should be doing everything he was doing now, unwillingly, unwittingly, acquiescently, silently. The doubt killed him. Maybe losing the Triforce was punishment for interfering in some greater plans, in something set aside for someone else. Maybe… maybe he was meant to fade away too. No one had ever mentioned an 'after' to him; sure, he'd promised Dark Link that they'd take a fishing trip and otherwise assume some sense of normalcy, but that wasn't an 'after.' It wasn't an ending. No one had ever told him what would happen after everything had been said and done.
No one had said anything except, "Wait," and then she'd disappeared.
Goddesses, but he wanted to rage when he wasn't so exhausted. He wanted to-
Link's ears twitched. Half a second of startled silence fell across the tables nearest the door. Chairs scuffed against the floor, feet shuffled, and abruptly the rest of the bar slowed to hazy, drunken movements and blurred words. Rube was on his feet, moving towards the newcomers, when a mellow voice stated calmly, "I know he's here."
Someone had started a grumbling reply but Link had already risen tiredly to his feet, entirely too conscious of the eyes trained on him, and greeted the man with a nod. He looked surprisingly grizzled in spite of his voice, and stood a little taller than Link in a plain uniform of the guard, with close-cropped dark hair and bright black eyes that shone like the wings of one of Agitha's beetles. As Link engaged with a blank stare, Hart's eyebrows shot into the plain of his wide, creased forehead.
"So this is the fearless leader," he smiled blandly. "Is it true you're a mute?"
Link glared, but refused to acknowledge the jibe. Someone choked in the background. Hart's smiled widened to a toothy grin.
"I just want to make sure that we're on the same plane of understanding, mute," the councilmen's bulldog began again, easily, casually, as if they were discussing the finer points of goat farming over a beer. "I do not play well with others." If the smile grew anymore, Link was sure the man's head would split in half like a puppet's. "And I never forget a face."
Just as easily, he placed a severed head – undoubtedly the unfortunate boy mentioned by Kent's friend – on a nearby table. And then he turned on his heel and left the bar trapped in stunned silence until Telma shrieked, "BAR'S CLOSED. GET THE HELL OUTTA HERE."